The CPO Playbook

By: Jeff Hatch

January 24, 2018

Make the Right Call for Your Certified Pre-Owned Program By Getting Your Entire Team on the Same Page

How do you build a top-tier certified pre-owned marketing program in your independent operation?

You build it from the ground up.

That means you start with the basics – a good partner to help you with your program and train everyone on their role in the process.

When Peyton Manning was quarterback of the Denver Broncos, he would yell “Omaha” as he waited for the snap.

Manning’s voice made the entire stadium tense up in anticipation of what was coming. Most important, his teammates snapped to a state of mental preparedness. When the snap came, they could react without thinking. 

The offense has the advantage over the defense – the offense knows what’s about to happen.

Every player knows his responsibilities and if any of them fail to carry out their assignment the play won’t work. Because they have a plan, the team moves in unison, beginning at the sound of the quarterback’s voice.

That can happen in your store. You can make is so everyone knows what to do when you call the play. 

When your staff knows which part of the playbook is being used and what everybody’s assignments are, the store becomes a team.

Manning was able to get buy-in from his teammates because they all knew the situation. Some plays are designed to get one tough yard and some are after a big gain. 

When everyone knows the situation and the goal of the play, they can carry out their duties with a more dedicated commitment.

So why are you calling the play for a CPO program?

Even if you know the answer to that question it might not be obvious to your employees.

The answer, really, is easy – to keep up with the competition.

The popularity of certified pre-owned is not showing any signs of slowing down. In fact, CPO sales set records for six consecutive years, and when the final numbers are tallied for 2017, they’re expected to break the record again.

Certified pre-owned vehicles are becoming more desirable even though fewer than half of all customers know what CPO entails. 

According to Autotrader’s 2014 CPO research study, 60 percent of car buyers said they’d like to look at a CPO unit while making a used car selection, but only 48 percent actually knew what it means for a vehicle to be certified. 

Those customers most likely don’t know the difference between warranties that come with a vehicle and extended service contracts that are purchased.

That leads to several conclusions about how to maximize the value of a CPO program.

Customers have heard of CPO and feel it is a better option. They also know it’s usually backed by a warranty for some period. 

The statistics tell us that to get the full value of a CPO program dealers should not rely on what customers think they know about certified pre-owned. A full presentation and explanation allows salespeople to create a need for the program.

For example, at Auction Direct USA, one of the nation’s most successful CPO dealerships, salespeople walk customers past an education wall that teaches them about Auction Direct, NIADA and their partnership in the NIADA Certified Pre-Owned program. 

Sales is about giving enough information to allow customers to arrive at the conclusion you want them to. That definition requires your salespeople to have knowledge of what the dealership’s program includes.

With that knowledge your salespeople can provide customers information that allows them to consider the value of the CPO program when weighing your dealership’s vehicles against the competition’s. 

The economy continues to grow, allowing more people to be able to buy a vehicle. That alone is going to create a spike in business.

To capture more than their share of that market, independent dealers must be ready to compete for every deal. 

Analysts agree a majority of used vehicle buyers are interested in at least learning about CPO.

That means if you do not have a CPO program, you are left fighting for the scraps among the minority of customers who don’t know about or are not interested in CPO. And it allows new car franchises and sophisticated independents to dine on the more lucrative segment of customers who are searching for certified pre-owned vehicles. 

You need to let your team know why the CPO play was called. The people who represent your programs to the public need to know it will allow the store to stay competitive and will make marketing to the entire spectrum of the used car business viable. 

Once the people who will make your program a success know why you are setting up a CPO program, the next question to answer is, “Why that one?”

So how do you choose which program to bring into your dealership family?

Factory programs are fantastic – but they’re not an option for independent dealers. OEMs only certify their branded vehicles exclusively through franchise stores.

Even if independents could get in on the factory CPO programs, they have their issues.

Just a few years ago, for example, the margin for CPO vehicles was as much as $2,500 more than for other inventory. Today, according to research by iseecars.com, it’s more in the $750-$1,200 range.

That’s still a good return, but when you add in the average price of reconditioning a used vehicle to factory CPO specifications – including expensive items such as factory floor mats and four matching tires – most of that profit for OEM programs goes to expenses that don’t increase the customer’s satisfaction with the vehicle.

Indeed, factory programs are so stringent with their qualifications that they only certify their brand at a factory store. Which is why some new vehicle franchises have begun to use independent programs to certify their non-factory inventory. 

Without a factory program what are you left with?

There are three main ways to certify a vehicle. OEM programs are one. Independents can also self-certify through a service contract company. 

Or they can find an independent organization willing to certify the dealer’s CPO process.

The best-known national certified pre-owned program for independent dealers in the NIADA Certified Pre-Owned program, sponsored by NIADA – an organization with more than 70 years of history whose mission includes promoting ethics in the used car industry. 

When NIADA wanted to bring its reputation and expertise to the CPO world it looked for a partner with the ability to certify pre-owned vehicles as well as experience and financial wherewithal to back those vehicles with a strong warranty. 

The exhaustive search for a program administrator led to The Amynta Group and its wholly owned subsidiary, Warrantech. 

“The best thing about that is it’s the same administrator General Motors and Mazda use for their extended service contracts and CPO, giving independent dealers’ customers the same service a new vehicle franchise would give,” said Warrantech’s Natalie Suarez, director of NIADA Certified. 

As a result of NIADA’s partnership with The Amynta Group, Suarez said, “we are able to provide a high-level, complete marketing program for independent dealers.” 

NIADA’s program, Suarez said, “is designed to give customers the kind of service in the event of a breakdown that’s usually reserved for new car dealerships, elevating the independent dealer in the customer’s eyes.

“And the more repeat and referral business dealers can generate, the less they spend on conquesting new customers.”

One of the first car salespeople in America was a man named Eddie Rickenbacker, who was best known as America’s most decorated flying ace, earning the Medal of Honor in World War I. He also raced in the Indianapolis 500, helped design a vehicle that bore his name and founded Eastern Airlines. 

Rickenbacker always said he learned while selling cars that you had to find your advantage and move continually towards that advantage, a philosophy that allowed him to survive countless dogfights over France. 

“The one thing I know for a fact is every lot has the same vehicles and the prices are pretty much the same, so if you want to differentiate yourself from the pack, you better provide something no one else does,” longtime auto dealer and advertising pioneer Bob Catterson once said. “If you can’t do something special the only other choice is price, and price prohibits sales, not makes them.”

Calling the NIADA CPO play for your store creates that competitive advantage over other independent dealers – and it allows you to compete with new car franchises for their used vehicle customers.

NIADA adds to that advantage with CPO partners that include some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Carfax, eBay Motors and SiriusXM Radio, adding credibility with customers and making your inventory more visible on search engines. 

Not to mention The Amynta Group, which has earned an A rating on A.M. Best’s rating system as one of the most stable companies in America and an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. 

Once all the people in the store know their part in running the play, it is important for everyone to flawlessly execute his or her assignment.

As legendary coach Vince Lombardi once said, “You can’t coach a player who hasn’t been trained.” Before they can execute the plan, your staff must be trained. 

Whoever is responsible for certifying vehicles must understand how important it is to properly communicate the condition of each vehicle to management.

If it costs too much to bring the car up to CPO standards, management needs to know. And the certifying technician needs to know that not certifying a vehicle also has a cost to the dealership. 

The technicians who inspect the vehicles need to be shown the deeper importance of their work to the sales process.

In the CPO process, credibility is extremely important. Customers must believe in the concept of the inspection process. If customers do not believe there has been an actual technician touching the car, they will doubt the value of the warranty and that will negate any certification advantage. 

Sales must use the NIADA certification checklist in the sales process. 

The sales department should leave a copy of the checklist in the glove compartment of the certified vehicle. The salesperson will pull the checklist out during the walkaround or demo ride and go over how the inspection affects the customer’s ownership experience. 

The tech’s role is to check every box individually to give validity to the checklist. He or she can help sales even more by adding extra details, such as writing the actual numbers for tire tread and brake pad width.  

When the behind-the-scenes people who help sell vehicles realize how much the little things they do help the profitability of the store, their work ethic is increased.

Salespeople have the job of being enthusiastic about the program.

W. Clement Stone once said, “A positive attitude increases the likelihood of a good outcome.” That means being committed to the belief that what the store is providing the customer has value helps accomplish the task – in this case, the task is maximizing profit and sales volume.

How did Peyton Manning always perform at a high level and get his teams to perform with him when he called his plays?

The team started from the ground up, making sure everyone knew the play, their role in the play and the goal the play was meant to accomplish.

If everyone does their job, from the inspection process to sales and finance, having a great CPO option allows independent dealers not only to keep up with the local competition but to be competitive with dealers across the country via the Internet.

When you have the advantage, you become a difficult team to compete against. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: William Carr is a longtime auto industry veteran in sales, management and training and a regional training manager for Warrantech Automotive, Inc. administrator of the NIADA Certified Pre-Owned program. For more information on the NIADA CPO program, visit www.niadacertified.com/dealers

This article originally appeared in the January 2018 edition of Used Car Dealer magazine and can be found online at: http://bit.ly/2DyhBHN 

Filed Under: Carr, contract, CPO, dealer, dealership, extended, independent, NIADA, service, team, William

Don’t Look Back

By: Jeff Hatch

February 03, 2017

Keep Your Focus on the Future With a Certified Pre-Owned Program That Gives Independent Dealers an Edge With Millennial Car Buyers

An axiom of military history says that generals spend all their time planning to fight the last war, making them ill-prepared for the next war. 

That same thing is happening with vehicle dealers today. They are planning for the future as they did with the past. 

The past was about the baby boomers. The future belongs to the millennials, and they are very different shoppers. 

Unlike their parents, millennials are ultra-frugal about their purchase of vehicles. Big box dealerships with their $20 million price tags that impressed their parents are a turn-off and an unneeded expense to this group. 

The millennial generation likes to buy vehicles others have taken the depreciation on – but they also show a tendency toward the security provided by new car warranties.

That makes the millennial group perfect for the used car industry for a couple of reasons.

For one, used car dealers can couple vehicles that have depreciated with a remaining factory warranty. And they can certify pre-owned vehicles as a viable way to let millennial buyer enter into vehicle ownership. 

Two factors make the millennial demographic predisposed to looking at the certified pre-owned option. 

The first is their propensity to buy used cars, and with that, a higher rate of acceptance of CPO vehicles. 

The second is their desire to be secure from the added expenses caused by mechanical breakdown. That makes a majority of millennial used vehicle purchasers open to a certified vehicle purchase. 

Millennial buyers consider themselves much savvier buyers than their parents were because of their ability to use mobile devices. But they are not necessarily as educated on all aspects of CPO as their predecessors. 

A study conducted this year by NADA Used Car Guide found 50 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds – millennials – said they were slightly or not at all familiar with CPO programs, a higher percentage than older generations.

They are, however, willing to learn, and they will add value to the product and increase their purchases of CPO vehicles when they are educated on those aspects. 

Even though they are looking for the security provided by CPO, they are not sure about the parts of the certification process that provide that security. Millennials are much less likely to understand the value of the inspection aspect of the program, nor do they in general grasp the warranty portion. 

But, like other buyers, when those components of the program are explained, millennials’ chances of purchasing a CPO unit rise. According to Autotrader’s 2015 CPO Study, 68 percent of used car shoppers said they would consider buying a CPO vehicle from the beginning, but once they learned the definition of what CPO really means, that number rose to 83 percent. 

One of the most compelling aspects of marketing to the millennial generation is their willingness to learn and accept new ideas – that is, as long as the learning can be done via the Internet. That’s where millennials shops and learn about products. 

Autotrader’s 2015 Automotive Buyer Influence Study found 74 percent of online shoppers say they use a smartphone or tablet to do their research – almost double the percentage from the previous year’s study – and millennial customer are at the forefront of that trend. 

The Internet is the most likely place for a millennial to find out about certified pre-owned program, other than a personal visit to the dealership. The problem with customers finding out about the benefits of CPO after they’ve done their dealership research is, while it helps sell the vehicle, it doesn’t help convince customer s to visit your store. 

Marketing to social media outlets with an educational message about CPO is the best way to reach this very valuable group of consumers. Millennials shoppers are much more likely to get their information from those sources – and to process and believe it – than the preceding generations.

Reaching millennials means getting those customers to your website. While they very much rely on in-person sales experience, their purchase process begins on their tablet or smartphone, long before they arrive at the dealership. 

Carrying certified pre-owned vehicles that hit this group’s “cool factor” is the best way to reach the segment. Using search criteria millennials prefer increases the likelihood they will see you first. 

Millennials may dream of Audi, Mercedes and BMW, but they are more likely to search for Honda, Chevrolet, Toyota and Ford, in that order. They also have a penchant for off-brand or discontinued vehicles like the Chrysler Pacifica, Dodge Magnum and Chevrolet TrailBlazer. 

Factory certification programs only certify up to six years, so independent used car dealers who can find a reputable national certification program that will certify back to the mid-2000s and beyond, such as the NIADA Certified program, can attract customers who are looking for those special vehicles and still want the safety and reassurance provided by CPO inspections and warranties. 

Millennial customers are going to spend more time on third-party and dealer websites than their older counterparts. People who spend the most time on those sites tend to be CPO shoppers – or they become CPO shoppers during the shopping experience. 

The more time customers spend looking on the Internet, the more they are able to focus on specific models and equipment and the more time they have to learn the advantages of a particular dealer’s services, commitments and ethics, which can be broadcast on the dealers’ sites and are an integral part of a CPO program.

Millennial shoppers are looking for security in their vehicle purchase and ownership, and having a warranty can create that peace of mind for buyers who cannot afford a new vehicle or just want to spend as little as possible to avoid the depreciation attached to the purchase of a new vehicle.

CPO is more important to this frugal generation because they don’t want to save money by buying a used vehicle only to discover they have bought someone else’s problems. Using tools such as Carfax, AutoCheck or any of the vehicle history reports gives a sense of the vehicle’s past, and an inspection and a warranty provide additional peace of mind. 

That has a real tangible value in the view of the millennial buyer. Even frugal car buyers see a real monetary value and willingly pay a premium for a certified vehicle. In fact, according to Autotrader’s 2014 Certified Pre-Owned Study, millennial CPO purchasers pay an average of $2,000 more for a vehicle that has been certified.

Finding the right vehicles for that group of buyers and a certification process that they can buy into – along with announcing on your website a commitment to the certification process and a great partnership to deliver the coverage to the customer – is a sure way to attract millennials’ business.

The most common reason consumers don’t purchase certified vehicles is simply a lack of awareness of CPO programs. Autotrader’s 2015 CPO Study showed that while consumers’ familiarity with CPO is steadily rising, only 49 percent of used car shoppers surveyed said they were familiar with certified pre-owned vehicles. 

But when they learn about what’s involved in the CPO process, most consumers see the value in the inspection and warranty. The same Autotrader study found the peace of mind that comes with certification and warranty are the two top reasons cited by customers for buying CPO vehicles. 

That means if you can get the millennial customers to your website, it becomes a matter of selling the customer on the right car – one that fills their needs but still leaves room for the protection that generation demands in the products they buy. 

In other words, if you can get your message to where millennials shop, 90 percent of those shoppers are going to see value in the CPO inspection process and the warranty attached to it.

It is very apparent from market research that the places millennials prefer to get their information are online from third-party sites, and the dealer’s own website is the next-most popular place. Where they do not go for information are OEM sites – they prefer unbiased accounts to what they perceive as propaganda from the manufacturer.

Millennial customers are the future of the automotive industry, which should be music to the independent used car dealer’s ears. Those buyers are not going to behave as their parents did. Things that turn on their parents, such as the glitz and glamour of new car facilities and the prestige of new car ownership, are not the kinds of things likely to ensnare millennials.

While many auto dealers continue to approach their target marketing from a baby boomer mindset, those who tailor their marketing and operations toward the millennial generation will find their stores staying relevant to a huge vehicle buying demographic for many years. 

So how do independent dealers move forward from yesterday’s playbook of success and prepare for this buying segment’s preferences? 

They must first recognize this is a different that is going to behave in a different manner from its predecessors and must therefore be approached in a different manner.

Independents will have to find ways to reach millennials in their favorite social media spots. Dealers might have to stock vehicles to which today’s younger buyers assign a certain cachet of ownership.

Millennials are not willing to forgo the security of warranties and service contracts to get these older vehicles. That makes it important to find a national partner for the certification process that has the three items it takes to be a good finance product – claims, coverage and an overall drive toward customer service – and can reach back to the early 2000s to cover the vehicles the millennial generation values and can afford.

Aligning with a program like NIADA CPO that does all that allows independent used car dealers to attract millennial buyers to their vehicles and deals using their lower overhead.

Millennials want to be able to shop using smartphones and texting for communication until they are ready to meet face-to-face, but they also want a dealership experience and a demo ride when it is time to buy. Millennial buyers care most about the warranty and inspection and will pay a premium for it, and will become your loyal customer for life. 

While others are still chasing the boomers, you can set up a program geared toward the future, selling to the millennial generation via the media they dwell in. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: William Carr is a longtime auto industry veteran in sales, management and training and a regional training manager for Warrantech Automotive, Inc. administrator of the NIADA Certified Pre-Owned program. For more information on the NIADA CPO program, visit www.niadacertified.com/dealers. 

This article originally appeared in the January 2017 edition of Used Car Dealer magazine and can be found online at: http://bit.ly/2ihlGVx

Filed Under: Car, certified, customers, Dealer, millennials, NIADA, pre-owned, Used

New Program Offers Certified Pre-Owned Cars With A Warranty

By: Jeff Hatch

August 11, 2016

The following story and broadcast appeared on WSPA 7 News, a CBS affiliate in South Carolina. To view the video or read the original article, visit: http://wspa.com/2016/08/11/a-brake-for-used-car-buyers-new-program-offers-certified-per-owned-cars-with-a-warranty/ 

We get a lot of calls from viewers who bought a used car, “as is,” only to have it break down shortly after. When dealers won’t fix it, drivers are out of luck.

Now a new certified pre-owned program that’s spreading across the country has made it to the Upstate. There’s only one local dealership in that program so far because it’s so stringent. So we looked into the benefit for consumers, and whether there is a cost involved.

“Our program bases a lot on statistics. We know that if you do 125-point inspection on a car, the odds of it breaking down go down to minuscule,” said William Carr with The Amynta Group/Warrantech.

The warranty backers have teamed up with the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association to support the certification program.

In addition to that thorough inspection, each vehicle will also get a Carfax report, recall check and come with a warranty of at least 3 months/3,000 miles, or 10yr/100k powertrain.

“By giving the consumer a better product, in the long run we’ll sell more cars. So I think it’s a win win,” said Darla Booher, the owner of Deal Depot in Greer, Spartanburg and Duncan.

Her dealerships are the only active members right now. And as such, those lots will have to abide by a strict code of conduct.

“There is a very stringent standard that deals not just with the inspections but with the entire running of a car lot. Recently an upstate dealer had to exit the program because they couldn’t live up to the standards of the program,” said Carr.

There are about 80 dealerships across the country involved in this program, with about 5 new ones added each week. In fact one in Greenville is coming on board before the end of the summer.

Administrators say the program cost for inspections and the warranty are minimal. But of course it begged the question, is that passed along to consumers?

“No, there’s absolutely not additional cost to the consumer,” said Booher.

In fact, when it comes to the warranty, it’s illegal for a dealer to charge for that or it becomes a service contract.

One word of caution, as a consumer you want to make sure that there’s no bait and switch. If a car is advertised as certified, the dealers should not offer to take off the certification for a lower price. That’s illegal.

The NIADA Certified program performs quarterly inspections to make sure all dealers are continuously compliant.

Filed Under: automobile, Carfax, CBS, certified, CPO, dealer, NIADA, pre-owned, program, Warrantech, WSPA

NIADA Certified 2.0

By: Jeff Hatch

August 23, 2014

The following article appeared in the 2014 August issue of Independent Dealer and can be found in its entirety at: http://bit.ly/2mpQFBi 

Reintroducing the national CPO program that was built by dealers, for dealers
 
Certified Pre-Owned has become the industry buzzword lately. The CPO model, created by the franchise dealers and OEMs, has set a new standard for used car sales and redefined the way customers shop for cars. In 2013, sales of manufacturer-certified pre-owned vehicles totaled a record 2.1 million units. 
 
National, high-dollar marketing campaigns have educated the car-buying public about the benefits of buying a used car that has been certified, so much that it has now come to be an expected part of the process. Much like a missing CarFax, if a car has not been certified then the customer starts to wonder what the dealer is hiding. 
 
For the most part, independent dealers have been left out of the CPO game. Good dealers, of course, have always inspected their cars and done their best to represent the condition of the vehicle as accurately as possible and some will even stand behind their inventory by offering some type of limited warranty to ease the mind of a wary customer. Even so, customers can still be a little skittish of a dealer-endorsed certified car and many will end up paying more at a franchise dealer’s used car lot to get the label they are after. 
 
That all changes, however, with the re-introduction of the NIADA Certified Pre-Owned program. NIADA Certified has been around for a few years, but recently underwent some extended enhancements and tweaks that have made it an attractive option to customers and a powerful profit-center for dealers.
 
“The NIADA Certified program allows independents to play on an even field with the new car dealers,” said NIADA Senior Vice President Frank Fuzy. “It’s 50 percent easier to sell a car that’s been certified and has a warranty, and we know that today every sale counts!”
 
The NIADA Certified program is backed by Warrantech, an The Amynta Group. NIADA approached the company earlier this year to retool the program and develop something that made sense for independents. Warrantech, who has worked with several other national partners to build similar programs, compiled all the data they could from dealers, consumers and associations to create a program that they say was “built for dealers by dealers.”
 
“We basically asked ‘what do you want’ and then we listened to what everyone said,” National Business Development Manager Natalie Suarez said about the changes to the program. Since it kicked off in January the number of dealers using the program has quadrupled. Suarez says dealers understanding exactly what CPO is, and can be, is part of the reason. 
 
“Customers want peace of mind. They are looking for cars that are advertised and branded as something they can trust and have been thoroughly checked out. NIADA Certified gives them a guarantee,” Suarez said. 
 
Some of the biggest changes to the new program include:
 
Three very flexible CPO Limited Warranty programs which include Basic, Standard and Enhanced options
CPO coverages for vehicles up to 14 years in age and with up to 150,000 miles
100 percent credit of the CPO Limited Warranty investment if the customer upgrades to an NIADA VSC contract
No surcharges
Enhanced NIADA CPO marketing resources, including large window banners, lot flags, etc.
A more seamless, less time-consuming CPO contract form processing procedure
eBay Motors promotion and inventory listing support/endorsement
ASE certified technician vehicle inspection requirement enhancing validity to the customer
 
NIADA Certified is exclusive to NIADA members (FIADA members of course gain NIADA membership automatically). Dealers choose which vehicles they want to certify, as well as the terms (3 months/3,000 miles, 6 months/6,000 miles or 12 months/12,000 miles) of the warranties. Current model year plus 14 year units with zero to 150,000 miles are eligible. There is a cost to the dealer to certify, however, if the customer upgrades to a service contract the fee is waived. Even if they don’t, however, the value added with the certified status can cover the cost. 
 
“There is a small cost to it in the beginning, but it gives leverage to the dealer to ask for more money in the price because of the value it has being certified. Consumers will and do pay more for certified,” Suarez said. 
 
“If you ask them, about one in four customers will upgrade to the service warranty, so the program really pays for itself,” Fuzy said. His dealership has seen so much success by utilizing NIADA Certified that he jokingly says he doesn’t want other dealers to know about it. 
 
“Don’t do it,” Fuzy teases to the other dealers, “because your sales will increase and you’ll be competing with me.”
 
There is more detailed information about NIADA Certified at the official website that has been created for it at www.niadacertified.com. To find out more, you can also call the FIADA office at (800) 237-0448 or go to the website at www.fiada.com

Filed Under: certified, CPO, Dealer, FIADA, Independent, NIADA, pre-owned, Warrantech